Ed Bedington
Organic red meat production is to be given a half a million pound boost in a bid to combat imports.
The funding will be used to set up a centre of excellence to encourage the expansion of red meat production in the UK.
The three-year project is being organised by the Red Meat Industry Forum and Newcastle University and jointly funded by Tesco and the Department of Trade and Industry.
Organic farmer and member of the RMIF management board Helen Browning said: "We've seen a rise in the amount of imported organic meat into the UK, from 5% to 30% over the last two years.
"We've got a lot of work to do to make sure we maintain and hopefully improve domestic supply into the market."
The project, one of 10 identified by the RMIF to help the livestock industry, will be based at Nafferton Farm near Newcastle and overseen by Professor Carlo Leiferton.
Martin Grantley Smith, RMIF programme co-ordinator, said: "The idea is to help develop an infrastructure for red meat production.
"We want Nafferton to be a demonstration farm, training facility and technology transfer centre."
The farm will develop blueprints for better production and best practice techniques as well as look at benchmarking and communicate those result to the entire production community.
The centre will also look at issues such as animal welfare and eating quality.
Browning added: "We'll never be as competitive on price with imports, but we can close the gap. We want to demonstrate the benefits of buying British organics to consumers and that's about quality and standards."
Matt Simister, red meat category manager for Tesco, said: "We are pleased to be supporting this initiative and we hope the work will enable us to grow our sales."
Browning said the consumption of organic meat was up 20%: "There has been a general slowdown in growth in the organic sector, but meat has really come into its own lately and is moving quite nicely.
"We need to keep working at it to keep it moving in that direction."